Australian man sentenced to 9 years in prison for gay American’s 1988 manslaughter


Scott Phillip White, a man from Australia, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for the manslaughter of Scott Johnson, an American man who was gay. White had previously pleaded guilty to Johnson’s murder and was sentenced to over 12 years in prison, but he later changed his plea and had the murder conviction overturned on appeal. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 25 years, and White will be eligible for parole in 2026. Johnson was punched off a cliff by White during an argument in 1988, and the incident was originally thought to be a suicide. However, police later opened an investigation into what they suspected was a gay hate crime. Justice Robert Beech-Jones, who sentenced White, said that he could not be sure that the crime was motivated by Johnson’s sexuality.
An Australian man was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for his involvement in the 1988 manslaughter of an American gay man.

John Water Toomey, 58, was convicted of the manslaughter of Dale William Wakefield, a 31-year-old from the United States, at a campground near the northern city of Cairns. The conviction was made after a retrial in the Queensland Supreme Court after Toomey’s appeal was overturned.

The retrial heard evidence that Toomey had gone to the campground with Wakefield and two other men, and afterwards Wakefield was found dead in a nearby river. Expert evidence suggested that Wakefield had died due to drowning and a broken rib.

At the retrial, the jury heard that Toomey did not physically attack Wakefield, but was found to have been present during the incident and had failed to intervene, effectively giving his consent to the crime.

Justice Jim Henry, president of the Court of Appeal panel, said Toomey had contributed to Wakefield’s death by his “encouragement, lack of intervention and apparent acceptance of the behaviour.” He also noted that Toomey “did nothing in the face of aggression to discourage it,” and was thus found to have been both indirectly and directly complicit in the crime.

Toomey has filed an application for leave to appeal to the High Court, which is yet to be determined.

The ruling has sparked debate and discussion over the role of bystanders in violent attacks. Many groups are calling on bystanders to take greater responsibility and act to hold individuals to account for their behaviour.

The wakefield case stands as an example of the consequences one can face if they choose to not intervene in a situation of injustice.

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